Aloha Here Comes Everyone

[Polyvinyl; 2004]

Styles: indie rock, indie-prog, elegiac pop, lite-FM
Others: AM/FM, Mercury Program, Tortoise, The Rhythm of Black Lines

When they came out with their first Polyvinyl release in 1999, The Great Communicators, the Interpreters, the Nonbelievers, and even more so once their first full-length, That's Your Fire, was released in 2000, Aloha was often pigeonholed simply as "one of those rock bands with a vibraphone player." This is inappropriate on two counts. Firstly, they actually have two vibraphonists in the band, Cale Parks and T.J. Lipple, and these members contribute on a number of other instruments as well. Secondly, it's true that other so-called post-rock groups, such as Tortoise and Mercury Program, share some similarities with Aloha (they too employ vibes and inflect their work both with the gestures of minimalism and avant-jazz elements), but to lump Aloha in with these other artists is overly reductive. No one listening closely could mistake Aloha's unusual blend of indie rock song with avant experimentation for the allied, but distinctly different, sound worlds of either Tortoise or Mercury Program.

Time has only served to strengthen the individuality of Aloha's sound. 2002's Sugar was a significant step forward, but their latest full-length, Here Comes Everyone (a slightly varied trope of a chapter title from Joyce's Finnegan's Wake), is even more impressive. It shows a considerable maturing of the group's songwriting abilities, ensemble coordination, and dramatic flair. Unlike some of the material on The Great Communicators and That's Your Fire, where songs sometimes seemed haphazard in their arrangements (yes, to be fair, sometimes the vibes did stick out like a sore thumb in the rockier numbers), there is careful and nuanced calculation palpable in each arrangement on HCE. Sometimes their approach accentuates the "rock" end of the spectrum. "All the Wars," for example, features a prominent guitar riff, which supports Tony Cavallario's dramatic vocal delivery. Math rock with a heavy groove is the order of business on "Summer Away," with a surf-influenced guitar break giving the tune a neat twist.

Other songs explore more exotic terrain. Acoustic guitar and an intricate bass line begin "You've Escaped" in ballad mode, but the texture is soon complicated by keyboard pads and pitched percussion in a gradual build-up of intricacy. "Boys in the Bathtub," on the other hand, seems affected by '70s Prog, complete with banks of keyboards and a guitar solo straight out of Steve Hackett's playbook. "Water Your Hands" is palpably influenced by minimalism, with a waterfall-like ostinato in the keyboards offset by syncopated guitar and bass lines, as well as a halo of those irrepressible vibes. The eventual layering of vocals is deftly done. "Perry Como Gold" is, at heart, a piano-vocal ballad, fleshed out with spacey guitar and keyboards, which finds the band trying on a refreshing reduction of means and maximizing of melody; although they still can't resist building to a heavy rock coda with a dead-eye guitar solo.

Here Comes Everyone proves to be an intriguing, diverse, and satisfying listening experience. However, Aloha's display of eminent facility in various styles and with a large array of instruments serves as somewhat of a double edged sword for the band. The challenge for Aloha going forward will be to harness their creativity into a unified album length statement, on which every song causes the listener to say, "Aha! Now that's an Aloha song." Until then, I am happy to hear the myriad interesting ways in which they choose to make music.

1. All the Wars
2. You've Escaped
3. Summer Away
4. Boys in the Bathtub
5. Be Near
6. Water Your Hands
7. I Don't know what else to do
8. Setting up Shop
9. Thermostat
10. Perry Como Gold
11. Altoona
12. Goodbye to the Factory